In the castle, in her chamber, the queen began to wake a little more. Mother Hulder had made some healing tea out of the Son-before-the-father and the all-heal. Now she got some of it into the queen. Until the queen began to spit it back up. Then she stopped and allowed the queen to lie back again on her pillows. She felt the queen’s forehead and it was still hot. She stepped out to the king and physician. “The queen woke a little,” she said, “and I managed to get some medicine down her throat.” “Do you know yet whether she will live or die?” the physician asked. “No,” Mother Hulder said. “It is too soon to know yet. But she does seem to be fighting for life. And that is hopeful.”
It was shortly after sending Heniek that the knights came across a cave. They quickly dismounted and watched it for a time. It looked like the kind of cave trolls lived in. They were generally strong, but not too bright. And they would have a warm home for the winter. Indeed, as the men watched two of them came out to sit in the sun for a while. They were short, with somewhat brownish skin. They were simply dressed in bright colored conical hats, with shirts and pants of opposing colors. They had the same pointed shoes that everyone else wore, too. Soon their home would be snowed in and they would not be able to do this. They were resting a bit in the cool from their work in the forge. These two made metal tools for themselves and their brothers and sisters to use for a variety of tasks in the woods. “We can get them to give us shelter,” Sir Joopi said. “We can get food and warmth from them for as long as we want it.”
“Good,” Sir Kendrew and Sir Matyes agreed. The men worked their way carefully down the hill with their horses. “Sir Troll,” Sir Joopi called out to the older one. “Do you speak to me,” the younger one asked, “or to my father here?” “To your father,” Sir Joopi said. “Well you’ll have to speak up,” the younger one said. “He’s a little deaf.”
They tried a little harder. “Sir Troll,” Joopi was practically yelled at him. “Ah-h,” the old one said. “You talking to me, sonny.” “Yes,” Joopi continued to yell. “We are poor travelers caught out on the road and still not home. Can we stay with you for a time. We need shelter for a few days.” He gambled that the storm would last longer than that. So by the time the few days were over, they would be snow bound and would have to stay the win-ter. “Ah-h,” said the old man again. “They want to know if they can winter with us,” the younger troll yelled. He was not so deaf as his father and not the least bit feeble minded. “We’ll have trouble with this one,” Joopi whispered to Kendrew. So they began to think of what to do about these people. “Well git off a bit and let us think about it,” the old troll said.
Sir Joopi and Sir Kendrew and Sir Matyes did get off a bit. But when they did they made some plans for themselves. Joopi said, “Kendrew and I will come at them from the front, you Matyes, get around behind them. Then we can kill them and take this cave for ourselves.”
The old troll and his son sat thinking and talking for a while. Their talk was so loud that the knights could hear them clearly. “Well what do you think, boy?” the old man asked. “Well how will we feed them through the winter?” he asked. “We barely have enough for ourselves.” “We could take their horses for meat,” the old man yelled. “I think not,” said the son. “They look too good ot be plow horses. We would want to keep them until spring. Then we’ll sell them and use the money to buy proper plow horses.” “But if we don’t let them stay, we won’t have a horse or the horses to plow in the spring,” the father said. “Aye,” said the son. “But what to do about the winter food supply.” “We could kill one horse,” the father said. “Eat on it sparingly. Then kill the other when we need meat. And when spring finally comes, we would have the last one to sell. He looks to be able to bring in enough money to buy at least one good plow horse with. That’d be better than before when we have to hitch you to the plow.” “Aye,” the son said, “You’re right about that.” They called the knights back over. “We’ve made a decision,” the son said.
“Well that’s good,” Sir Joopi said. He did not mention that the knights had made a decision too. They came forward, Sir Joopi and Sir Kendrew in the front with Sir Matyes working his way around the back. “What is your decision, Sir Troll,” Joopi said, trying to distract them from what Sir Matyes was doing. “We’ve decided that you can stay on one condition. That you kill one of your horses now for the meat. Then you shall have to kill one of your horses later, again for the meat. Then you will leave the third horse here with us to help us with the spring planting.”
“Well we will have to think about that for a moment,” Sir Joopi said, stroking his chin and turning to one side a little. He did that to loosen his sword in its sheath without the trolls seeing him. Sir Matyes was in place behind them. Sir Kendrew also loosened his sword in its sheath. At that point, Joopi and Kendrew both drew their swords and attacked. With Matyes attacking from the back, just a few deep cuts and the trolls were both dead. “Why don’t we keep our horses and kill you,” Joopi said, being facetious
“Yes,” said Kendrew over the trolls’ dead bodies, “We’ll kill our horses when we want to and eat their meat ourselves. They went into the cave then. They found the forge well fixed and well maintained. “Yes,” said Joopi, “this is just the place for us to spend the winter.” He went to the end of the cave and found two neat, well appointed, bedrooms. This was where those trolls lived and spent their whole lives.
They dumped the bodies of the trolls outside. Troll meat was not very satisfying. Horsemeat would be a little better. What would be the best of all would be fresh game.
They brought the horses into the forge. There was an area for them to stand and wait if they needed to. It was even set-up so that the horses could stay overnight if necessary. In the back were two nice neat bedrooms. One was larger, that had belonged to the father. The reason it was larger was that there had been a mother to share it with him. But she had died long ago. To the other side was the son’s smaller bedroom. “That’ll be mine,” Joopi said. “You two will share the other. Just makes sense that way.”